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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

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Chanson de Roland

What does it mean to live as a human being, where a machine articulates our respective moods to each other, chooses our respective mates, chooses our respective careers, provides advance warnings when our behaviors would be inappropriate? Leave aside just for the moment the possibility, which I think fairly likely, that the computers and sensors, for that is what these machines would be, would be not infrequently wrong, it still leaves us with people who are not themselves but are instead a type of modified robot, who don't live and experience life for themselves, with all its imperfections and mistakes and miscommunications that are essential not only for our personal growth but also for the evolution and advancement of humanity as a species. For we are not only the sum of our brilliant and benificient acts but also our bad moods, inappropriate acts, mistaken choices, miscommunications etc., because those things comprise us and reflect us, and give meaning to each other, for what does it mean to communicate one’s thoughts well, when your machine communicates them perfectly? How does one ever learn and grow from that?

Now, instead of the unmitigated, unaltered, and genuine us, the video, supra, portrays, as a utopia, a world of the improved human, improved because his emotions are utterly known, predicted, explained, and controlled, whose wristband chooses the perfect job and perfect mate. Yet that is not who we are, nor is that our world. If it should ever become our world, where our emotions, choices, and decisions are analyzed and boxed and mediated, if not utterly controlled, then we lose our privacy, for we would be known better than we know ourselves; we lose our autonomy, for all our acts and decisions would be mediated by the machine; we lose our dignity, for instead of man free and independent, we become a second-rate reflection of someone's idea of ideal perfection. That is not utopia; that is dystopia, a place where man may not and finally cannot be man but some programmed idea of what is ideal.

But whose concept of the ideal would that be? Who would own it? Who could modify and control it? And, as the Editor notes, supra, who would own its awesome, complete, and ubiquitous knowledge of us, not merely our past but of the instant real time moments, feelings, and acts that are us and which, as they are the moments of our present, will become the story of our pasts? Right now, all of that belongs to each of us? It is, for better or worse, ours, and it is our responsibility and is what makes us human to make it for the better.

Yet, we have already loss a major portion of it, our personal information, on the Internet, because, without much thought, our lives on the Internet have come to belong to others, like Google and Facebook. Now, we are offered a vision, supra, that perfects and completes the expropriation of us, as our very emotions, how they are expressed, and our decisions would become others' property and subject to those others' control.

This is such an obvious nightmare that I thought it, and still do think, that it must be satire. I waiting for Monty Python's players--younger readers look it up--to carry on the skit from the setup video, supra. But, if the video, supra, is not a joke but someone seriously contemplating it as some sort of enhanced humanity, then we've already progressed much farther on the road to Hell than I had imagined. And the Internet, with its insidious, erosion of our privacy, its expropriation of our personal data, and our becoming accustomed to its insidious erosion of our privacy, dignity, and sense of discretion, will have had much to do with preparing us for the Hell of brave new world of the utterly known and controlled human, as depicted in the video, supra.

We once called people, who had visions like this, Nazis or Big Brother or totalitarian despots. But now we are supposed to accept this as some sort tech vision of utopia, where Google, Facebook, and their ilk maximize their profits by crossing the boundary from collecting our personal data on the Internet to sensing, recording, analyzing, and controlling our emotions, from knowing that we want a new car or new mate to controlling us so that we buy a particular or even want a particular car and choose a particular “ideal” mate. I don't know about you, but I will stick to thinking of those who would give effect to the video, supra, as at least incipient Nazis.

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